Scientists developed a cool technology, which can make old trucks more efficient

Obviously, trucks and buses produce a fair share of harmful emissions. Manufacturers are trying to reduce their fuel consumption and make these large vehicles greener, but it is not easy, we are approaching limits of what an internal combustion engine can do. However, researchers from the University of Waterloo have found a new area worth improving.

Trucks and buses waste a lot of fuel while stationary just to run air conditioning and other systems. Image credit: Music Fund via Wikimedia

City buses and delivery trucks mostly work in city environments. It means that a significant amount of time they spend idling while standing still at traffic lights or in traffic jams. Scientists say that this wasted energy can be reused if some novel technologies are applied. Engineers from the University of Waterloo have found a way to capture waste energy from service vehicles as they are slowing down. Furthermore, they figured out a method of using this saved energy to power such systems as air conditioning or refrigeration units when the vehicle is stationary. This could prevent some harmful emissions as well as reduce fuel consumption, allowing companies to have a bit better profit margins.

People tend to think that idling is not that bad – not that much fuel is burnt when the vehicle is standing still. However, idling is really inefficient – scientists calculate that engine operates only at 5 % efficiency in such situations. One option is to use the so called “stop/start” technology, which shuts down the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop. However, it prevents using such systems as air conditioning or refrigerator units, so in some cases it is simply not an option.

This new technology harnesses the energy, which is generally wasted as the vehicle is coming to a stop and stores it in a battery. Then this energy can be used to power all the necessary systems, while engine is not running. Seems like a genius solution, but it did not come easy to scientists.

Researchers analysed various driving, braking and idling patterns of service vehicles. Then they used computer models and actual engines in a laboratory setting to determine the best way to harvest wasted energy and reuse it to save fuel and provide a more eco-friendly drive. That is how they came up with this system, which in the future could solve several problems in one go. It does not have to be incorporated into vehicles in manufacturing process – it can easily be fitted even to older trucks and buses.

Amir Khajepour, lead author of the study, said: “Given that most companies or governments cannot afford to transition their entire fleets over to cleaner vehicles all at once, this system could represent a cost-effective way to make current vehicles more fuel efficient in the short term”.

And it is a genius solution, because it is basically free. Scientists estimate that fuel saved would more than make up for the price of the technology installed. So it is a complete win, even if it will spend a few more years in development.


Source: University of Waterloo

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